Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'VE BEEN BIT: How I Caught The Online Poker Bug.

"What are you all into? You folded on 4th Street? You hit trips on the river? Someone check-raised you? ... What the sam hell language are you guys speaking, anyway?"

Ahhh Poker, a game I'd heard about for so long, but had no interest in playing. All I knew was you were dealt cards and you had to bet on how good your cards are. It all sounded kinda stupid to me. Screw poker, I'm gonna go play Text Twist on Yahoo games.

That was then, this is now. I signed up for Pokerstars.com 8 short days ago and I've been hooked on online Texas Hold 'Em tournaments ever since.

So how exactly did I go from one extreme to the other? Let's have a look at my poker timeline:

September 2002 - I moved to Vancouver to pursue a career in acting after spending 5 total years gaining a Bachelor of Computer Science degree and 2 years at a software programming job. I was pretty darn decent at my job, but it just wasn't my passion. The day by day struggle to stay awake and not drool on myself or battling the "noddy sleepy head thing" was too much. And I'm a dreamer, baby, dare to dream! What relevance does this have to poker? Patience, eager one, we'll get to that in due time...

December 2003 - I return home to visit over Christmas. I notice that my extended family and friends talk in this weird language with rivers and trips and big blinds and buttons and cut-offs... Weird...

May 2004 - I get a job testing video games at Electronic Arts in Burnaby. A lot of my co-workers love poker and keep talking about it. Still not interested.

May 2005 - I get a job at a restaurant in Burnaby. My coworkers have a regular poker night after work on Tuesdays... Or was it Mondays? Meh, who cares, they invited me out and again I declined. "But dude, you're an actor! That would totally help you play well at poker!" Nice try fellas, but you ain't takin' my money, no sir.

August 2006 - I return to Nova Scotia to attend my sister's wedding. Before I leave to go back to Vancouver, there's a big family get together. What's everyone doing? Yup, you guessed it, playing poker.

January 2008 - With the acting career not panning out the way I had hoped, I once again return to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (affectionately known as The Dark Side) with my tail between my legs. Ah well, at least I get to hang out with friends and family.

Late January 2008 - My buddy Joe has a birthday party for his son, Logan, my godson. Once the presents are opened and done with, BAM! Poker tables out, here we go again... But THIS time, U-E says "Sure, I'll play. Buy-in is twenty bucks? Alright, I'm in."

Famous last words.

I got up about 5 bucks early and thought, "Man this game is easy! These guys are suckers! Hahaaahahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! ...... Hahahahahhaaaaa!" Fast forward to half an hour later and my twenty bucks is gone. My favorite moment was folding from the big blind when I could have just checked. "This game is stupid anyway," I thought. But OOOOOOO, I hate losing! They haven't heard the last of me...

March 2008 - I get myself a copy of Poker Superstars II and start randomly trying to beat the game. No such luck, Virtual Johnny Chan OWNS my ass... DAMN YOU, VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN!!!!! DAAAMMMMNNNNN YOUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!

May 2008 - Another family get together, more poker, I sit out. I'm unemployed and can't afford another twenty bucks. So I start reading the Texas Hold'Em chapter of "Poker For Dummies." You know you're reeeeeeaaaally bad at something when you read a "For Dummies" book (that little Where's Waldo/Fido Dido lookin' dude on the cover of those books really mocks you, doesn't he?) But after reading just that one chapter, BOOM! I was a contenda, baby! Poker Superstars II was beatable!

June 2008 - DOWN GOES VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN! DOWN GOES VIRTUAL JOHNNY CHAN! That's right, I finally beat computer generated opponents! I had one stretch where I played 8 seasons of the game, winning 4 World Series Of Poker tournaments, one time doing it back to back and getting to either the finals or semi-finals the other 4 times. I was livin' large, ready to take on the world! I told my buddy, Romes how good I had gotten, to which he replied "PFFFFFFTTTT!!! Computer opponents? Play against real players live or online, THEN get back to me." And then, in one of the greatest moments in verbal comeback history, I said:

"Yeah... I WILL get back to you."

Brilliant, U-E, brilliant.

July 2008 - Still an unemployed bum, I decide to try and get my computer programming skills up to date again so I can get a computer job and make something out of my life. Every day, wake up, Java tutorials, Java books, java this java that, PHP this, J2EE that... My brain hurts.

While taking a break from the mind-numbing brain cram, I happen to see a "Win a Weekend Playing Poker With Daniel Negreanu! Free at Pokerstars.com" Hmmm... interesting. I download the software, fire it up... and all of a sudden I'm battling for the prize! On this particular day and time, only 1100 people signed up for the free-roll (no entry fee) with the top 1000 making it to the semis. Twenty minutes later, I'm in the semis! I basically made it by default. As Homer Simpson would say "The two sweetest words in the English language. Dee Fault! Dee fault!"

But in order to actually have a chance in the semis, I need more knowledge of the game. Knowledge is power. Must... learn... about... poker. So I get myself a copy of "Harrington on Hold 'Em Volume 1: Strategic Play", read it throughout the week, taking part in free-roll tournaments as I go, and tournament by tournament, my results get better and better! Thank you Dan Harrington. AND he's still got two more volumes of books to read, too. Things can only get better.

Then I started doing a little more research and there's a good number of pro poker players who have a background in Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics, all disciplines I've studied in the past. Let's have a look:


  • Barry Greenstein - Graduated with a Bachelor in Computer Science (so did I!) and was studying for a PhD in math but left (I was a math major in a science undergrad degree with a diploma in engineering before switching to BCS)

  • Phil Gordon - Graduated with a BCS and worked for Lockheed (I worked for Lockheed Martin Canada)

  • Lee Jones - Bachelor of science in Computer Science and a masters of science in engineering

  • Chris Ferguson - PhD in Computer Science

  • Phil Laak - graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering

  • Freddy Deeb - studied mechanical engineering

  • Huck Seed - Was an electrical engineering student (I was accepted into electrical before switching to computer science)

  • Bill Chen - Software Designer, PhD in mathematics.

  • Allan Cunningham - Civil Engineering


And let's not forget the acting thing, too. There's a lot of respectable actor poker players:

  • Jennifer Tilly - has a World Series of Poker bracelet

  • Ben Affleck

  • James Woods

  • Shannon Elizabeth - saw her on TV commentating up a storm. She knows her stuff.

  • Will Wheaton

  • Tobey Maguire


The old acting skills might come in handy for the live poker play if I ever decide to do it.

And finally, there's my hometown poker hero. Cory Carroll! I think it's funny how he has that picture from the World Series of Poker with a hood on and our hometown of Dartmouth is called "The Dark Side" (By the way, if you also thought that was funny, you're a bit computer geeky like me. Admit it, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Sith lords foreevaaaa!!!!)

So there you have it. Technical nerdy background, an acting background. On paper, it seems like I have a lot of the qualities needed to play the game. And most importantly, in one short week I've developed a love of the game. So far my weird range of career choices and interests have left me unemployed and wondering when it will all come together. I'm a big believer in synchronicity and things happening for a reason, so who knows, maybe this is the start of something big.

It has begun!

Am I going to keep getting better at poker? Is this a hobby that's going to make me a little money? A lot of money? Can it be a profession for me? Whoa, it's a little too early for that kinda talk. One week of poker playing does not a career make. Only time will tell. Come for the ride as I experience the rush of the bluff, the thrill of the check-raise, hitting the nut flush, doubling up... And that crappy sinking feeling when you know you just got outplayed and you're left with a tenth of your stack, waiting to be blinded out while wondering what the hell just happened, sitting in stunned silence.

Join me on this journey, folks.

I'm all into it.

1 comment:

ROMES said...

Oh man....if you become a successful poker legend, I call "Manager" unless you become a gambling addict, then I don't want any part of it...lol